Monumental Cemetery in Milan, Italy - An Open Air Sculpture Museum

Monumental Cemetery in Milan, Italy – An Open Air Sculpture Museum

When I prepared my Last Will and Testament some years ago, I included specific provisions that I wish to be cremated. I promised my sisters that if they put me in the cold, hard ground, I’d come back to haunt them. But a recent visit to the Monumental Cemetery in Milan, Italy, had me reconsidering that view.

The Famedio, a Neo-Medieval syle building of marble and stone, serves as the entrance to Monumental Cemetery in Milan

In 1838, the city of Milan announced a competition for the design of a new cemetery that would be open to citizens of “all forms and all fortunes” and become a “Monument of Milan.” It took 28 years, but Cimitario Monumentale finally opened in 1866. Being interred here quickly became a status symbol. The city’s elite commissioned famous sculptors such as Luca Beltrami, Giò Ponti, Pietro Cascella, Giò Pomodoro, Giacomo Manzù, Arturo Martini, Lucio Fontana, Medardo Rosso, Vincenzo Vela, and Adolfo Wildt to create tombs and grave sculptures in increasingly elaborate designs.

Statues of passion and anguish at Milan's Cimitario Monumentale (Monumental Cemetery)

Statues of passion and anguish at Milan’s Cimitario Monumentale (Monumental Cemetery)

Angel statue at Monumental Cemetery in Milan

Angel statue at Monumental Cemetery in Milan

Today, Monumental Cemetery in Milan is the second most popular tourist destination in the city, after the magnificent Duomo Cathedral. A stroll through the broad tree-lined paths reveal Greek temples, a lighthouse-shaped tower carved with scenes from the Stations of the Cross, tombs with soaring plate glass facades, obelisks, angels, and sculptures in poses ranging from agony to eternal peace.

Elaborately sculpted tower at left is the mausoleum of Italian entrepreneur Antonio Bernocchi

Elaborately sculpted tower at left is the mausoleum of Italian entrepreneur Antonio Bernocchi

Tree-lined path at Monumental Cemetery, with view to the Famedio, the main memorial chapel at the site

Tree-lined path at Monumental Cemetery, with view to the Famedio, the main memorial chapel at the site

The names engraved on the headstones read like a Who’s Who list of Italian luminaries. Heads of industry, finance, culture, entertainment, and sports are all buried here: conductor Arturo Toscanini; poet and novelist Alessandro Manzoni; poet, novelist, and Nobel Laureate Salvatore Quasimodo; actress and singer Wanda Osiris; and philosopher and writer Carlo Cattaneo among others. One of the most recognizable names found here is Campari, a family renowned as producers of Campari aperitif. Their family crypt features a life-size bronze sculpture of the Last Supper by Giannino Castiglioni.

Bronze sculpture of the Last Supper by Giannino Castiglioni sits in front of the Campari family tomb in Monumental Cemetery in Milan, Italy

Bronze sculpture of the Last Supper by Giannino Castiglioni sits in front of the Campari family tomb in Monumental Cemetery in Milan, Italy

Not only is Monumental Cemetery a peaceful respite in an otherwise busy and sometimes chaotic city, it’s an extraordinary open-air sculpture museum that traces the artistic history of the city, from the realism and eclecticism of the late nineteenth century to the contemporary era. If I had to be put in the cold, hard ground, I couldn’t imagine a better place.

Contemporary sculptures sit side-by-side with classic tombs

Contemporary sculptures sit side-by-side with classic tombs

Monumental Cemetery of Milan is open from Tuesday through Sunday, from 9:30 a.m. to 5p.m. There is no entrance fee and entry is permitted up to 30 minutes before closing time. Guided tours can be booked for a fee by calling 02 884 45706 or e-mailing [email protected]

6 Comments on “Monumental Cemetery in Milan, Italy – An Open Air Sculpture Museum

  1. Beautiful snaps Barbara! I agree with you. Honestly; even though this cemetery is beyond gorgeous, I’m going with cremation. No corpse, just cremated. Worms got enough food LOL. Plus it is up to individuals to receive closure however they choose. Friends and fam can remember me as the Blogging From Paradise guy who circled the globe. Not as a stiff hahaha….fabulous post!

    Ryan

    • LOL – thanks so much Ryan! Just sprinkle my ashes over Chiang Mai and I’ll be happy for eternity.

  2. Haha, that’s funny what you said to your sisters about coming back to haunt them. Can you imagine how much fun it would be to haunt people? You know, move their keys here and there or hide their favourite snacks lol

    • And I think you and I have more than a little insight into that subject – we still need to explore that! xo

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